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Rugby | International Rugby

Wales bid to break autumn duck



Statistics do not read well for Wales going into their last international test match of 2012 against Australia at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday.

The defending Grand Slam champions are on a six-match losing streak and have so far been trumped by Argentina, Samoa and New Zealand in their November matches, while the Wallabies bounced back from a surprise mauling in France to beat England and Italy.

Saturday's game will be the sixth between Wales and Australia in 13 months, the Wallabies winning all previous five encounters, including the third-place play-off at the World Cup and a closely-fought three-test series on Australian soil in the summer.

If that record wasn't bad enough, Wales must beat Australia to remain in the top eight seeds for Monday's 2015 World Cup draw in London, teams in the top two bands of four receiving a more favourable group.

Should Australia win, not only would it be their eighth consecutive win against the Welsh since 2009, but it would also mean that they leapfrog South Africa to finish the year as they started: ranked second in the world.

"There's very little between us," Australia coach Robbie Deans admitted, highlighting his team's 11-point combined winning total in the three matches in the summer. "There was nothing in them.

"There are not too many surprises in international rugby. In and since the World Cup, defences have ramped up and part of that is in the conditioning and Wales are one of the most conditioned.

"Wales will throw everything at us, no doubt."

But Deans said that the Wallabies would be looking to finish their long season, in which they've played an incredible 16 tests, on a high ahead of a well-earned break, the resumption of Super Rugby rugby and the 2013 tour of the British and Irish Lions.

"This is our last outing and we don't want to go into summer unhappy with our last performance," the New Zealander said.

"It's the last opportunity for our group before the Lions and also the Wales players to present themselves."

Deans named David Pocock in his starting XV, the openside flanker who led Australia to the three-test clean sweep in June having recovered from a knee injury that has ruled him since the Wallabies' opening match of the Rugby Championship against the All Blacks at Sydney in August.

"It's great to have David to inject into the game," Deans said, with lock Kane Douglas also returning from a knee injury to take over from the suspended Sitaleki Timani, while Tatafu Polota-Nau resumes at hooker.

Wales made four changes, all in the pack, to their run-on team, coach Warren Gatland notably bringing in Scott Andrews for injured tighthead prop Aaron Jarvis, while lock Ian Evans replaces Bradley Davies, who was ruled out after being felled by the now-banned Andrew Hore in Wales' 33-10 defeat by the All Blacks last weekend.

"We have always tried to be very honest in terms of our expectations," Gatland said of the disappointing autumn series, the first two games of which he missed because he was a player-scouting mission as part of his Lions remit.

"A win on Saturday would be nice, but we would still be disappointed with not winning the first two games (against Argentina and Samoa). We won't hide away from that fact.

"It has been a learning curve for players and coaches, in particular for some of the younger players.

"They've had to learn to cope with some team criticism, some personal criticism, and that is part of professional sport."

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